‘On the trash heap’

Week­end, October 27 29, 2017 Prose­cu­tors say cases tossed over back­log and de­lays

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - YOUR ESSENTIAL DAILY NEWS - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS Lu­cie Ed­ward­son Metro | Cal­gary

Al­berta prose­cu­tors say court back­logs and de­lays mean they are toss­ing crim­i­nal cases “on the trash heap.’’

Se­nior Cal­gary pros­e­cu­tor Jonathan Hak told court this week the sys­tem is over­loaded with crim­i­nal cases and “there’s not a blessed thing the Crown can do about that.’’

“What the Crown is do­ing is tak­ing cases that are per­fectly pros­e­cutable and we’re just toss­ing them on the trash heap. We’re say­ing th­ese aren’t im­por­tant enough,’’ Hak said dur­ing a hear­ing into whether a woman’s con­vic­tion in her son’s death should be over­turned due to un­rea­son­able de­lay.

Fo­cus­ing on some cases at the ex­pense of oth­ers “does a dis­ser­vice to the peo­ple in­volved,’’ he said.

Hak said the Crown has been ordered to stream­line cases and the out­come has been un­sat­is­fac­tory.

The judge hear­ing the woman’s case noted Canada has al­ways grap­pled with de­layed tri­als.

The Supreme Court is­sued the so-called Jor­dan de­ci­sion last sum­mer. It set out a frame- work to de­ter­mine whether a crim­i­nal trial has been un­rea­son­ably de­layed and cited a “cul­ture of com­pla­cency’’ for con­tribut­ing to the prob­lem.

The rul­ing said any­one charged with an of­fence has the right to have the case tried within a rea­son­able amount of time — 18 months for provin­cial courts and 30 months for su­pe­rior courts.

There are ex­cep­tions, and the rul­ing came with a tran­si­tional mea­sure for cases al­ready in the sys­tem. The dis­sent­ing mi­nor­ity on the high court ar­gued the new time lim­its could lead to thou­sands of pros­e­cu­tions be­ing tossed out.

Al­berta Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kath­leen Gan­ley said prose­cu­tors have been urged to fo­cus on cases that in­volve se­ri­ous or vi­o­lent crimes, but she added that drop­ping a case is a last re­sort.

Rather, she said, the in­tent is to try to re­solve less ur­gent cases early on. With Cal­gary’s new city coun­cil set to be­gin mak­ing bud­get de­ci­sions next month, the Cal­gary Po­lice Com­mis­sion (CPC) and Cal­gary Po­lice Ser­vice (CPS) are reaf­firm­ing their need for a bud­get in­crease. At the CPC meet­ing on Tues­day, chair Brian Thiessen said their fi­nance and au­dit com­mit­tee has re­viewed the ser­vice’s bud­getary needs, and he be­lieves the com­mis­sion’s ask for a $14.3 mil­lion is on par.

“We are con­fi­dent that city coun­cil un­der­stands just how im­por­tant those bud­get re­quests are,” he said.

Thiessen said dur­ing the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion that the CPC pro­vided a bud­get brief­ing note to all can­di­dates and in turn, he heard sup­port from may­oral and coun­cilor can­di­dates.

Chief Roger Chaf­fin said it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant the ser­vice sees the in­crease — af­ter three flat bud­get years and a hir­ing freeze this year — be­cause ev­ery pro­gram they’re cur­rently run­ning or start­ing is con­tin­gent on the bud­get. “That means every­thing be­gins to stop — pro­grams start to stall…our hir­ing,” he said. “We’re sim­ply at the point where we need to un­der­stand long-term what we’re go­ing to look.”

Jyoti Gon­dek, newly minted city coun­cilor for Ward 3, said af­ter a meet­ing with the CPC dur­ing her cam­paign and from speak­ing to res­i­dents, she com­pletely un­der­stands why they’re ask­ing for more money.

DARRYL DYCK THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Al­berta Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Kath­leen Gan­ley speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Septem­ber 15.

JEN­NIFER FRIESEN FOR METRO

CPC chair Brian Thiessen

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